Friday, 28 September 2012

Angle of View

I discovered this Angle Shades roosting in the porch this morning. This distinctive and unusual moth is one of my favourites, a beautiful and wonderfully cryptic moth that you could easily lose in a pile of dead and withered leaves. It is not particularly rare, though it is only the second one I have seen here in Batch Valley.

Angle Shades

Thursday, 27 September 2012

To trap, or not to trap...? (part II)

I faced a similar dilemma to Graham last night, and also decided to put out the trap to see if anything had survived the wind and the rain. My session was not as productive, with only 14 moths of nine species attracted. Nevertheless, I did get a new moth for Batch Valley, a Lunar Underwing, and very nice it was too. This is a species first trapped by Graham on 12 September, scroll down or see here, and like several moths, this species has a variety of forms. Last nights was one of the darker forms, as compared to the yellower form trapped by Graham.

Lunar Underwing

The commonest moth in the trap last night was Silver Y. This is an immigrant which appears in varying numbers, though it is usually quite common and apparently this year is a good one for it. The spring immigrants produce a brood, so this moth is in fact likely to be of local origin. In fact, on the same date Graham trapped his first Lunar Underwing, he also discovered a Silver Y pupa. Any well-stocked garden may have Silver Ys nectaring at dusk at the moment, and the metallic Y shaped mark is the distinctive marker on this beautiful moth.

Silver Y

To trap, or not to trap .... ?

Yes, that was the question I asked at around 7 o'clock last evening as it began to rain yet again. But it seemed quite mild and so thus promising, and the trap was switched on.

And was the result disappointing? NO, in the trap this morning were 31 moths of 13 different species and what is more, 2 new species for the site and a moth I have not seen since 2002 when I lived in Yorkshire, a beautiful Bulrush Wainscot. Its caterpillar feeds inside the stems of bulrushes, Typha latifolia.

Bulrush Wainscot

The picture below is of a Satellite Moth. The name comes from the fact that the "kidney-mark" (or more technically, the Reniform stigma)  has 2 very small dots below it which look like satellites going round it. The kidney mark is either white or orange and the satellites can be white or orange too. In this one there is one of each!

Also in the trap was a Brown-spot Pinion, new to this site. The small grey micro-moth in my previous post (23 September) is an Elachista species and can only be accurately named after performance of a technical determination of its genitalia.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Saturday Night Fewer

With the cooler nights now we can expect fewer moths in the trap and such was the case last night, however there was a new moth for the site, a Mottled Umber, not unexpected, but perhaps a little  early. This is a very variable moth - its Latin name is Erannis defoliaria.

Mottled Umber

A second new moth was however one of the very small micro-moths

and as yet I have not been able to identify it. But see below!

Firethorn Leafminer
In the garden yesterday was a Firethorn Leaf-miner, presumably one of those hatched from the leaf mines on the pyracantha bushes mentioned a few posts ago,

And in the house, a White-shouldered House-moth, which, unlike its neighbour the Brown House-moth, feeds on dead animal and vegetable matter.

White-shouldered House-moth
The moth has now been identified (by CW Plant) as Elachista canapennella.

Saturday, 22 September 2012


Moths are normally more active on warm and cloudy still nights. So with a forecast of clear skies and possible the first frost of the autumn I knew that the moth trap may be quite empty this morning. I was proved right, with only six moths attracted to the trap overnight. There was nothing new or unusual, but it was an opportunity to have a closer look at one the species I regularly catch.

Canary-shouldered Thorn

This is a Canary-shouldered Thorn, and it is a quite beautiful moth. It has an improbable yellow body (thorax), from which it gets its unlikely name. It also holds its wings at an angle, and these are dusted with beautiful markings.

This is a common moth and is a regular fixture in both of our traps. It just shows what is lurking unseen in gardens in the Strettons.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Les Miserables!

Probably Limnephilus lunatus

There were only 3 moths in the trap this morning, but at least there were several caddis flies - insects which I know very little about, except that some of them can be confused with moths. Caddis flies have long antennae, like several moths, but they have hairy wings, unlike those of moths which have scales. 

However, there is usually something of interest other than the trap catch so I was pleased to discover that the larva of the Lime Hawkmoth (pictured a few days ago) has now pupated. It will be several months befor it becomes a moth.

Lime Hawkmoth (pupa)

Also, a walk on the Mynd (over in the All Stretton area) led to the discovery of a very pretty caterpillar. A search of the caterpillar book (Jim Porter, Caterpillars of the British Isles) did not provide a solution.

Drinker (larva)

However, the internet finally provided the answer. The caterpillar in question is going to overwinter like this and in the spring will change its skin and become instantly recognised as a Drinker Moth larva.

Monday, 17 September 2012

A Mystery Solved

Another low catch this morning after a cool night but there were 7 Common Marbled Carpets and singles of 5 other species.

The Mystery "hairy caterpillar" in my recent post (12 September) turns out to be an early instar of a Garden Tiger (Arctia caja). This will overwinter like that and eventually change colour and become the well known Woolly Bear, which used to be a very common sight in the UK but is declining, supposedly due to cold and wet weather at the start of the year.

Over the last 5 days I had seen a small moth flying near the house and yesterday I managed to catch it and photograph it.

Anthophila fabriciana, Nettle-tap

This moth is commonly called a "Nettle-tap, presumably because its larvae feed on nettles. It is one of the commonest micro-moths in the UK. It (and the 5 other species of its family, Choreutidae) are easily recognised by the distinctive way they hold their wings

Sunday, 16 September 2012


Not much time to get the moth trap out this weekend, but I still managed to find a couple of things of interest. On Saturday night I rescued this curious insect from inside the house.

Beautiful Plume

This is actually a moth, or more accurately one of the 'micro' moths. It is part of a family called the Pterophoridae, though this is helpfully given the more manageable name of Plume Moths. These moths are distinctive in holding their wings at right angles, and this one is called a Beautiful Plume.

A walk this afternoon up Batch Valley found another interesting creature. This dark caterpillar (or more accurately 'larva') with a red line in fact turns into a beautiful white moth called a White Ermine. These will not be on the wing until May, and this larva will over winter in a cocoon in plant debris. If we find a adult of this stunning moth we will be sure to post a picture.

White Ermine Larva

Saturday, 15 September 2012

And Mines a Leaf!

I do not usually run my light 2 nights running as it allows the moths to get away from the site, but because of last night's power cut I decided to give it a go.

Flounced Chestnut
I was rewarded by a Flounced Chestnut and like Mike, a Brindled Green. This moth comes in a variety of shades of green, brown and blackish so it is interesting to compare our examples.

Brindled Green

Well, although I posted a couple of leaf miners yesterday, the caterpillar below, is not one which "mines a leaf".

It actually rolls up the edges of a leaf (in this case a blackberry) and belongs to the tortrix family.

Unfortunately I am unable to identify it, but will ask the audience - or even phone a friend! I shall try to keep it alive and hope to breed it through to adulthood.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Wind and Brimstone

It was windy in Batch Valley last night, so much so that I needed to move the trap round the back of the house before I went to bed. It also rained and I was quite pleased to manage 18 moths. Stars of the show were two Brimstone Moths. Not a particularly rare moth, but like the butterfly of the same name, beautiful and instantly recognisable insects.

Brimstone Moth

The commonest moth was actually the Common Marbled Carpet. This is a really quite variable species, though all of the three last night were the form with a sold orange band on the forewing. They readily come to porch lights and are quite plentiful this year.

Common Marbled Carpet

I also managed to catch a new moth for us both in the Strettons - a Brindled Green. This one was quite a worn moth, but still distinctive when the lighting was right.

Brindled Green

Electric shock

A shock to find we had a power cut (at around 02.00 hrs) and the thus there was a much reduced catch (15 moths, 9 species).

Gracillaria syringella (mine and rolls)
But all is not lost, a walk down the road revealed leaf mines on the lilac tree of a neighbour (Gracillaria syringella)

Mompha raschkiella (mine)

and a mine on Rosebay Willowherb of Mompha raschkiella - new to me.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The First Cold Night

Only nine moths in the trap this morning, but that was to be expected with the low temperature.
Nevertheless there was a Lunar Underwing, a very variable moth, but its name comes from the pattern on its underwings, which is its distinguishing feature.

Lunar Underwing

Garden Tiger, Arctia caja larva.
However, a couple of interesting items during the week were a small, VERY hairy caterpillar found on a Juncus sp.  in the water meadow down Ludlow Road. This is still to be identified.

Silver Y pupa
Similarly, on a walk round part of Coppice Leasowes reserve, I found a pupa in its silken sheath attached to a yellow Iris leaf. I shall have to wait some time for the moth to emerge.

Monday, 10 September 2012

New beginnings

My first 4 weeks in The Strettons has been inspiring. The garden has been in full bloom and has attracted 15 species of butterflies, notably a Purple Hairstreak and several Graylings - not really known as garden butterflys.

Oblique Carpet
In terms of moths, the highlights have been an Oblique Carpet and an Anomalous, 2 macro-moths completely new to me, and an Oak Nycteoline (f. notata).


Oak Nycteoline

Lime Hawkmoth larva

This is the season for finding lots of larvae (caterpillars) and I was delighted to find one of the spectacular Lime Hawkmoth larvae on the pavement in Ludlow Road.

Also around are several "Leaf miners".
Have a look at your pyracantha bushes
and see if you can find one.                   

                                                                 Firethorn leaf mine

New micros in Batch Valley

I often turn the porch light on as it gets dark, and check before I go to bed to see if anything is attracted. I did this on Sunday night and picked up another three new species for my Batch Valley garden. The first was a Brimstone Moth, not a rarity but nice to see. I also got these two micros. The first is a tortrix, one of the tricky Acleris laterana/comariana pair, and is probably not identifiable to species. The second is a scoparid, also a tricky family but this one is a Eudonia angustea:

Acleris laterana/comariana

Eudonia angustea

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Modest returns

A clear night and cold conditions led to quite a modest catch overnight in Batch Valley, my smallest yet since I started trapping. I still managed to find three new species for the garden, Green Carpet, Brown-spot Pinion and Hedge Rustic. Otherwise it was the usual suspects, though this included a fine Antler Moth, with the beautiful white antler-shaped mark on the forewing.

Green Carpet

Antler Moth

Brown-spot Pinion

Hedge Rustics